Ring of Honor's Jonathan Gresham Explains the Importance of Reviving the ROH Pure Championship

From 2004-06 Ring of Honor's roster included the ROH Pure Championship, a title held by future legends of the industry such as AJ Styles, Jay Lethal, Samoa Joe and Bryan Danielson (better known as Daniel Bryan). The concept of "Pure Rules" was simple but they brought a unique flavor to every match — you can only use a rope break to stop a submission or pinfall three times, closed-fist punches are banned and wrestlers have a 20-count to get back inside the ring. The title stuck around until August 2006 when Danielson ended Nigel McGuinness' nearly-year-long reign and unified it with the ROH World Championship.

In early 2020 Ring of Honor announced they'd be reviving the championship via a two-night tournament in early April. That was fantastic news for Jonathan Gresham, a technical wrestling mastermind who has cut promo after promo pushing for Pure Rules to become the standard for Ring of Honor. Up until the tournament, Gresham was the last man to compete in a Pure Rules Match when he beat Sylas Young at the 2019 Best in the World pay-per-view.

"...Since I've gotten the Ring of Honor, I would talk about Pure wrestling to anybody that would listen," Gresham said in a new interview with ComicBook.com. "Fans, wrestlers, promoters, whatever. So I'd like to think that I had a little something to do with it [coming back]. But for the most part, I think the company finally realized that Pure professional wrestling and the Pure division is something that will separate them from every other company in the world, actually."

The tournament had to be postponed due to COVID-19 but was relaunched as a 16-man, single-elimination last month. The first two matches of the tournament, Gresham vs. Wheeler Yuta and Lethal vs. Dalton Castle, aired on this week's edition of Ring of Honor Wrestling. Naturally, Gresham and Lethal (the reigning ROH World Tag Team Champions) advanced.

Gresham elaborated on how Pure Wrestling Rules can give ROH its own identity in the ever-growing industry.

"I feel like, back in the day, Ring of Honor, we were the alternative," Gresham said. "We were always the alternative. You look at every company, right now, stylistically, they kind of took away or were influenced by Ring of Honor. Most of the wrestling industry, right now, is influenced by what Ring of Honor was producing at the time. Whether you talk about WWE, TNA, all of those guys kind of just, they gravitated from Ring of Honor and moved on. And they took the style [with them]."

"The Foundation" then broke down the importance of pro wrestling having strict rules — when a heel breaks those rules, fans have a reason to get mad.

"When you watch a guy at a bar watching a football game, soccer game, normally he's yelling at the referee because of a technicality that he saw, the referee didn't see, or a bad call," he said. "But in professional wrestling, you can't do that because fans don't know the rules. A lot of the boys in the back that are wrestling don't know the rules. And the referees no longer have any authority.

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"And I think that the Pure Championship, we give that authority back to the referees," he continued. "And now we can tell those stories of good guy versus bad guy because, in the current climate, good guy versus bad guy doesn't [work] not matter [what] because there are no rules to break."

The next episode of Ring of Honor Wrestling will air two more first-round tournament matches: Rocky Romero vs. David Finlay and Delirious vs. Matt Sydal. You can check out when the episode airs in your area here.